Little Tommy Friedman has decided to go whistling past the graveyard again. In “Say What, Al Gore, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump?” he babbles about what he thinks is an opening for lessons in climate change. As if… Mr. Bruni has a question in “Paul Ryan’s Dangerous Silence on Donald Trump:” How long can the House speaker bite his tongue about the president-elect? Forever, Frank, as long as he thinks his career will benefit. Here’s TMOW:
Good for Al Gore for meeting with Donald Trump on Monday. Good for Ivanka Trump for inviting Gore to come in for a talk on climate change, and good for President-elect Trump for embracing the encounter.
Alas, though, a single meeting does not an environmental policy make; skepticism is in order. The ultimate proof will only come from the appointments Trump makes for his key environmental and energy jobs and the direction he gives them — whether to press ahead with U.S. leadership on mitigating climate change and introducing clean energy and efficiency standards, or abandon that role, as Trump previously indicated he might, and try to revive the U.S. coal industry and unleash more drilling for fossil fuels from sea to shining sea.
Ivanka clearly has an influence on her father’s thinking, and the fact that she went out of her way to set up a meeting with Gore, who has done more to alert the world to the perils of climate change than anyone else on the planet, and the fact that Gore described the meeting as “a sincere search for areas of common ground … to be continued,” offer a glimmer of hope.
When my publisher had Trump in to The Times recently, it became clear to me that very few people had thought he would win election, and so the people who were gathered around him for the last year and a half were not exactly America’s best and brightest.
Extreme, long-shot campaigns often attract a Star Wars bar collection of extreme opportunists and conspiracy theorists — and the Trump campaign was the Good Ship Lollipop for many such types.
For a man who seems to learn mostly from those in his friendship circle, or from TV news shows, such an unbalanced team made many of Trump’s bad instincts worse. Some of those characters were from the coal and oil industries, and they saw in Trump their last chance to kill the renewable energy revolution at a time when many other Republicans were already moving on.
One hopes that Ivanka is telling her father that nothing would force his critics — in America and abroad — to give him a second look more than if he names serious scientists to the key environmental jobs.
And I suspect that Trump himself discovered during the campaign that outside of the U.S.’s coal-mining regions, a vast majority of Americans understand not only that human-generated climate change is real, but also that when residents of both Beijing and New Delhi can’t breathe, clean energy systems will become the next great global industry. They represent a huge manufacturing export market.
It would be flat-out crazy for America to give up its leadership in this field by turning back to burning dirty lumps of coal when wind and solar are beginning to beat fossil fuels in price without subsidies.
I don’t expect Trump to abandon his effort to increase oil drilling or to ban coal. But I laud Gore for trying to work with him on this issue, because if Trump was to embrace the science of climate change, it would be game over for the fossilized climate deniers who remain in his own party. (Many Republican lawmakers would be relieved.) It’s also probably his single best peacetime possibility to unite Americans.
A fantasy? Maybe. But it is worth remembering how the last G.O.P. administration evolved. Texas oilman George W. Bush went from shocking the world by announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto climate treaty to embracing “wind and solar” and calling for Americans “to address the serious challenge of climate change” in his 2007 State of the Union address.
Bush also appointed experts in environmental law and practitioners — like Andy Karsner and Jim Connaughton, two of the smartest people I know on energy and the environment — and directed them to promote clean energy through bipartisan legislation and regulation that remain the basis of a lot of policy today. Bush decried the fact that America was “addicted to oil” and ended up creating a “major emitters” conference that helped pave the way for the Paris climate agreement.
In short, I am not sure Trump realizes all this — that impugning climate science and just unleashing coal and oil would be a departure from the last two Republican administrations. It was George H.W. Bush, in 1989, who first proposed using a cap-and-trade system to slash by 50 percent sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
I detest what Mitch McConnell and the Tea Party movement have put our nation through, prioritizing their need for our president to fail over the good of our country. I am not over that. But you also have to think where we are: The stakes couldn’t be higher. When so many big forces — technology, globalization and climate change — are accelerating at once, small errors in navigation can have huge consequences. We can get really far off track, really fast.
As long as Trump is open to learning on the environment, we have to push our best and brightest through the doors of Trump Tower to constructively engage him. The more the better. I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised and supportive of any turns to the positive. But the minute his door closes to learning and evolving, man the barricades.
He actually seems to think that Trump gives a crap about anything except himself and his money and his cronies. How cute… Now here’s Mr. Bruni:
Paul Ryan has long been cast as Congress’s Boy Scout: earnest, honest and brimming with the best intentions, whether you agree with his proposals or not.
Donald Trump is putting an ugly end to that.
Or, rather, Ryan himself is, with his example of utter submission to Trump. Other Republicans are looking to the speaker of the House for guidance on when to confront the president-elect and when to let his craziness go unchecked. And Ryan is charting the wrong course.
I’m referring to his recent “60 Minutes” interview, the apotheosis of all of his tongue biting and conscience snuffing to date. In particular I mean the part when he was asked about Trump’s reckless — and wholly unsubstantiated — tweet that millions of Americans had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.
“I’m not really focused on these things,” Ryan said, all too blithely. Then: “I have no knowledge of such things. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Such things? Was he at a tea in the Cotswolds, discussing the pesky upkeep of the carriage house?
Doesn’t matter? No, I guess a president-elect’s effort to undermine Americans’ confidence in our political system — and, beyond that, his attachment to conspiracy theories — aren’t pressing concerns. My bad for assuming otherwise.
Ryan’s answer was marginally better than the one given on the ABC News show “This Week” by Mike Pence, who described Trump’s tweets as “refreshing.” An adjective’s connotations can change from era to era as a language evolves, but I still associate “refreshing” with lemonade and dips in the sea, not wild accusations of voter fraud. My command of English is clearly slipping.
Pence, of course, is Trump’s designated sycophant. That’s practically written into a vice president’s job description. Ryan has no similar duty, just a growing willingness to part ways with principle.
I do understand the position that he and many pols in both parties are in. They’re alarmed by Trump, and frequently aghast at him, but they want enough peace to steer him in the directions they desire and to minimize the damage over all.
They have seen how prone he can be to manipulation, how susceptible to flattery, how influenced by the last voice in his ear. So they’re trying to stick close enough to whisper, and one of the main stories of the Trump presidency, unless it goes completely off the rails, will be their ceaseless calculations about when they can afford to stay mum and when they can’t.
But they can’t afford to stay mum when Trump, merely to stroke his own ego and assert his potency, tells a lie about election results, calling Clinton’s advantage in the popular vote a sham. Certainly Ryan can’t, because he’s a role model and because this lie epitomizes Trump’s demagogic tendencies and legitimizes fake news, the dark consequences of which are becoming ever clearer.
The disregard for truth — and indulgence of fantasy — among people at the pinnacle of power right now is chilling. Beyond Trump there’s Michael Flynn, his nominee for national security adviser, who has tweeted pure bunk about Clinton’s ties to pedophilia and money laundering. Flynn’s son, who was his chief of staff, perpetuated the whole “pizzagate” madness. And then of course there’s Ben Carson, the housing secretary to be, with his conviction that the pyramids were grain silos.
Is Ryan really content to look the other way just for an Obamacare repeal and some tax reform? There’s plenty he can’t count on getting from Trump, who pledged not to monkey with Medicare, which Ryan yearns to change, and is talking about steep tariffs that run counter to Ryan’s philosophy.
Ryan has at least hinted about his opposition to those tariffs. But he and other supposedly principled conservatives publicly applauded Trump’s dealings with the air-conditioning manufacturer Carrier, a degree of meddling in the free market that they would have savaged President Obama for.
On the subject of Trump, Ryan has spoken out of so many sides of his mouth that it’s less an oval than an octagon at this point. Last spring he even affirmed his endorsement of Trump while calling him out for racism. Behold leadership at its most gelatinous.
Discussing Trump on “60 Minutes,” he had a manner that was borderline coquettish. He said that Trump, with his tweets, was “basically giving voice to a lot of people who have felt that they were voiceless.”
Sometimes, yes. But many times, Trump is giving a green light to kooks and the finger to the dignity that Americans rightly expect of a president and that Ryan should demand of him.
Ryan is sacrificing too much for too little, and it’s time he rummaged through his wobbly endoskeleton and made fresh acquaintance with his spine. Until that happens, this sadly groveling Boy Scout will be lost in the woods.
Tags: The Moustache of Wisdom